The Art of Explaining: MHA’s Best Crisis Communications Resources    

Crisis Communications Resources

The rise of the internet and social media has made crisis communications more challenging—and more critical—than ever. In today’s post, we’ll list and link to some of MHA’s best-ever resources on the art of communicating during a crisis. 

Related on MHA Consulting: All About BIAs: A Guide to MHA Consulting’s Best BIA Resources 

From the Frying Pan into the Fire 

Last week MHA Consulting CEO Michael Herrera wrote a blog where he listed, linked to, and described some of the best blog posts and other resources we’ve produced on BIAs. (His post is called All About BIAs: A Guide to MHA Consulting’s Best BIA Resources; check it out, if you haven’t seen it; it’s full of solid content on why BIAs are important and how to do them.)  

Today’s blog will do the same thing for our resources on crisis communications as Michael’s did for our BIA content.  

We’ve written a lot about crisis communications over the years. This is because, over and over again, we’ve seen companies go from the frying pan into the fire because they make a crisis worse as a result of a being bad at the communication aspect.  

Companies need to be capable of communicating during crises they might face with the media and their internal and external stakeholders. This is more true than ever in the age of internet news and social media. 

Every organization’s crisis management plan must include a crisis communications plan and strategy. 

Before we get to that list of resources, let’s review a few crisis communication essentials to set the stage. (These are adapted from Chapter 6: “Crisis Communications: Sharing Information and Protecting Your Brand,” in Crisis Management: A Handbook for BCM Professionals, by myself and Michael Herrera; available for free download here.) 

Three Steps to Take Ahead of Time 

When it comes to crisis communications, success is achieved in advance. There are three steps every organization should take ahead of time to ensure it can communicate effectively during an event: 

  1. Prepare scripts for the four or five negative events that are most likely to happen.  
  1. Identify and train the right spokespeople to comment to the media, speak on camera, and post to social media about the event.  
  1. Set up a system for internal communication about the crisis, whether it’s an emergency notification system (ENS), email, social media, or something else. 

For more complete explanations of these steps, check out the ebook and the other resources listed below. 

Four Rules for Communicating in a Crisis 

We have had a front-row seat to a great deal of corporate crisis communication over the years. During that time, we’ve formulated four rules for how businesses should communicate during an emergency: 

  1. Always tell the truth.  
  1. Keep it simple.  
  1. Speak through a single voice.  
  1. Use the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, and why, plus how). 

See the ebook and other resources for more details. 

Dealing with Social Media  

Sometimes social media calls attention to behavior that truly is wrong and should be publicized and corrected. At other times, things blow up on a company for no good reason. 

The bad behavior of one or two employees, amplified through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, can snowball in a way that threatens a brand that took years to build. 

From the viewpoint of business, the rise of social media has created a significant new set of challenges. The resources below include guidance on dealing with them. 

Protecting Your Brand 

In writing business continuity plans, BC and crisis management teams need to think about how to protect their organization’s brand, one of its most valuable assets.  

Here are eight tips to help you protect your brand in a crisis: 

  1. Become brand-aware.  
  1. Include brand protection in your crisis management plan. 
  1. Devise policies governing staff social media use.  
  1. Monitor what’s being said about your organization on social media. 
  1. Establish a relationship with a crisis PR firm ahead of time, just in case. 
  1. Draft responses for likely problems in advance.  
  1. Establish triplines for when you will bring in outside assistance.  
  1. Don’t go dark; if you don’t control the message, others will.  

For the full story on protecting your brand, see the ebook and other resources listed below. 

*     *     * 

That does it for setting the stage. Let’s get on with listing, linking to, and previewing the best resources MHA has produced on the subject of crisis communications. 

Free Ebook 

Crisis Management: A Handbook for BCM Professionals. This is an ebook written by MHA CEO Michael Herrera and myself. Most relevant is Chapter 6: “Crisis Communications: Sharing Information and Protecting Your Brand.” This chapter explains, in the words of the ebook’s introduction, “How to share information about the crisis with stakeholders and the media while also safeguarding your organization’s brand.” Free download with registration. 

Blog Posts 

The following MHA blog posts on crisis communication were written either by Michael Herrera or myself: 

Thriving in the Hot Seat: Crisis Communication Do’s and Don’ts. “By following the do’s laid out above—and avoiding the don’ts—you can ensure that you thrive in the hot seat, and that your company doesn’t make its business crisis worse by precipitating a media crisis.” 

The BCM Pro’s Role in Managing Social Media During a Crisis. “The BCM pro is not likely to have any hands-on responsibility for managing the company’s response to social media postings, whether during a crisis or at any other time. However, the BCM professional can play an important role as an advocate, explaining to colleagues the importance of taking certain measures—and the risks of not taking them.” 

4 Rules for Effective Communication in a Crisis. “I [Michael] have had a front-row seat to much corporate communication in a crisis over the years. During that time, I have observed four rules that are especially important in containing the damage.” 

Crisis Communications: Managing the Message. “Every crisis response operates at two levels: what you do about it, and what you say about it.” 

“This Is an Emergency”: Why You Should Consider an Emergency Notification System. “In today’s post, I’ll discuss some of the types of electronic alert systems that are available to business, sketch out their benefits, and point out some of the things to be cautious about in using such platforms.” 

Crisis Management, Public Relations, and Business Continuity. “If the company handles the press part [of a crisis] well, it’s usually safe to assume they’re doing a lot of other things right behind the scenes.” 

BCM Basics: The Strategic Side of Crisis Management. “Companies should develop pre-determined communication templates by audience (internal and external) and come up with a general schedule for communication to each audience.” 

Dropping the Ball: 6 Common Crisis Response Mistakes. “The old school approach to communicating about company problems was, the less said, the better. That is no longer a viable strategy.” 

The 6 Tasks Every Emergency Plan Should Address. “Information about the event and its impact should be disseminated in a thoughtful, intentional, and controlled manner.” 

Strengthening Your Crisis Communication Capability 

The rise of the internet and social media has made crisis communications more difficult than ever. They’ve also made it more important. 

MHA has written a lot about crisis communications over the years because we have seen how neglecting it can turn a relatively minor crisis into a public fiasco. We hope the resources listed above help you in strengthening your organization’s crisis communication capability, whether you work on it independently or with the help of a consulting firm. 

Further Reading 

For more information on crisis communications and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from MHA Consulting: 

Richard Long is one of MHA’s practice team leaders for Technology and Disaster Recovery related engagements. He has been responsible for the successful execution of MHA business continuity and disaster recovery engagements in industries such as Energy & Utilities, Government Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Risk Management, Travel & Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Education. Prior to joining MHA, Richard held Senior IT Director positions at PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT) and has been a senior leader across all disciplines of IT. He has successfully led international and domestic disaster recovery, technology assessment, crisis management and risk mitigation engagements.

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